MMS Blog

The machine tool is the heart of a job shop, but while a beating heart can keep the body breathing, it takes a brain to get any work done. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software provides a shop with the interconnected nervous system that enables it to organize and plan its business effectively. With the advent of cloud technology, it can even improve a manager’s work-life balance through mobile access to shop data. Using cloud-based ERP software from Shoptech Software Corp. (Glastonbury, Connecticut), one job shop has been able to consolidate its management systems into a single platform the manager can operate from a phone.

When two engineers struck out on their own in 1998, they founded X-Mil Inc. in Mt. Orab, Ohio. Now managed by Erica Carpenter, the daughter of one of the co-founders, X-Mil is a job shop specializing in turning, milling, welding and assembly. The company has grown to a productive machine shop with 18 employees and more than a dozen turning and milling centers, performing work for the aerospace, oil and coal industries. It even fully machines and assembles roller-coaster braking systems. When Ms. Carpenter stepped into her current position, however, she recognized serious process inefficiencies.

Absolute Machine Tools Inc. (Lorain, Ohio) is marking its 30th year as a machine tool importer and distributor in North America.

Steve Ortner and Hayden Wellman founded the company in 1988 in a garage. While working as a representative for digital readout maker Anilam, Mr. Ortner made contact with Taiwanese machine tool manufacturer Johnford in 1990, which became the company’s first original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partner. Partnerships with You Ji and Tongtai came next, followed by relationships with Nexturn, QuickTech and Precihole.

Metav, the Düsseldorf, Germany-based show that takes place biennially in February, faces the burden of occurring only a few months after the world's biggest metalworking show, EMO Hannover, and a few months before world events such as AMB, the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) and the Japan International Machine Tool Fair (JIMTOF). As a result, exhibitors use the show to connect with customers from Northern Germany and don't necessarily present world-introduction solutions.

Therefore, for my coverage of the event, I focused on what is new in clamping technology, toolholding and workholding—areas in which customers are increasingly benefiting from solutions designed for the age of Industry 4.0. Exhibitors had a number of intelligent workholding and toolholding solutions for automation and networked manufacturing up their sleeves. Digital-workflow data collected from these “smart” devices can be used to manage process flows, and productivity can be increased by performing the appropriate analysis and data processing. Similarly, some new clamping technology generates data that can contribute to process-flow optimization. For example, tooling and maintenance times can be reduced in advance and the machine time can be used for production instead.

Click through the slideshow above to see a sampling of some of those technologies I spotted at the show.

If you are connected to the surface finishing industry through machining or manufacturing materials, then Cleveland, Ohio, is where you will want to be June 4-6 when the community gathers at the Sur/Fin Manufacturing and Technology Trade Show and Conference hosted by the National Association for Surface Finishing (NASF).

“With more than 80 technical presentation and over 180 experts in the industry on hand, Sur/Fin is the place to learn, meet and discover all the latest in technology and innovations,” says Matt Akin, chairperson of the Sur/Fin Conference.

One of the key benefits of using a horizontal machining center (HMC) is the option to mount workpieces on a tombstone. Multiple workpieces can be mounted per side. Indexing the tombstone on the machine’s rotary table makes another set of workpieces accessible for machining. The more sides on the tombstone, the more sets of parts that can be machined without operator attention or idle time for a pallet change. The productivity gains can be substantial.

KME CNC (Irvine, California) has added some new twists and turns to this scenario—both literally and figuratively speaking. Literally, new twists and turns are represented by the rotary capabilities of its five-axis tombstones. These tombstones provide programmable rotary platters enabling the HMC to do five-sided machining. The machine’s three linear axes can combine with the coordinated rotary indexing motion of the platters and the rotary motion of the machine’s worktable to reach five sides of each workpiece on the face of the tombstone—and do some operations with all five axes moving at once (of course, the orientation of the cutting tool in the horizontal spindle cannot be programmed, so this is not five-axis machining for contours or sculptured surfaces). These rotary platters add greatly to the flexibility of the HMC’s machining capability, applications manager Jerome Mel says.

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